ISLAMABAD: After realising sensitivity of the issue, the government on Wednesday agreed to rectify the change in a clause of Election Bill 2017, regarding Khatm-e-Nabuwwat (finality of the prophethood) in the declaration form of the public office holders.
National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq told a press conference that there was a consensus among the parliamentary leaders on the issue and an amendment would be tabled in the National Assembly on Thursday (today) to fix this ‘mistake’ in the Election Bill.
“We have decided to address the (honest) mistake or clerical mistake with consensus and on Thursday an amendment will be made to ratify [restore] the previous declaration as it is,” said Sadiq, who was flanked by the parliamentary leaders in the lower house of Parliament.
The controversy was discussed in the house on Tuesday and later it was debated on social media. The government is blamed for the legislation about removing the provision regarding the declaration of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat in pro-forma submitted by a candidate to contest elections.
In the new Form-A, the words ‘I solemnly swear’ have been replaced with ‘I declare’ in a clause relating to a candidate’s belief in the finality of the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Besides it has not been made applicable to non-Muslim candidates.
The change, expert and politicians say, makes the statement mere a declaration form instead of an affidavit.
At the outset of the National Assembly session on Wednesday, the speaker announced that he was holding a meeting with parliamentary leaders to address the issue. An hour later, Deputy Speaker Javed Abbasi adjourned the proceedings for lack of quorum pointed out by Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Nafisa Shah.
The speaker said during Thursday’s session house rules would be suspended to amend the Election Bill 2017 to undo the changes in the declaration form. “It is never late to correct a mistake once you realise about it,” he stated.
On the occasion, Law Minister Zahid Hamid, who on Tuesday shrugged off criticism of the law, pointed out to the journalists that the Election Bill was passed with consensus in the Senate.
He said it was part of the Political Parties Act that a disqualified person cannot be office-bearer of a political party. This provision was repealed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1975 but Gen Musharraf reintroduced it in 2000 to prosecute Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto.
Answering a question, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) lawmaker Akram Durrani said it had been agreed that if the change in pro-forma was a deliberate act, the person(s) responsible would be held accountable. “Investigation will be initiated and [those responsible] will be punished,” he said.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) parliamentary leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the whole country was disturbed with this development. He added the PTI had also demanded review of Clause 203 of the bill that paved the way for Nawaz Sharif to become the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president.
Qureshi stated that changes in Clause 7B and Clause 7C — which are also related to the finality of the prophethood — will be reviewed as well as those clauses omitted from the new election bill.
Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rasheed was the first to point out the change in the clause about Khatm-e-Nabuwwat followed by other members of the National Assembly, including lawmakers from the JUI-F and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).